To Share and Share Alike

Sharing is something we are all encouraged to do. We were taught by our parents the importance of it and we teach it to our own children. In the early stages of the church, sharing was seen as a way of helping others who were not as fortunate. We read in Acts 2:44-45, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” In Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, he makes a point of making sharing a priority.

It seems that the Corinthians had at first been eager to share what they had and collect an offering for those less fortunate. But they had not completed the offering. Paul wrote them to commend the Corinthian Christians for their initial efforts and to encourage them to complete what they had begun one year earlier. By their generosity and record of giving, they would be an example and inspiration for all Christian churches. The Corinthian Christians, Paul reminded them, had excelled above all others in many areas—faith, ability to speak eloquently, in their knowledge and wisdom, and in their love for him. Now Paul was writing to ask them to excel above all others in their giving. In 2 Corinthians 8:7, we read, “see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” This was to come from the abundance they had received from God.

For many of us, we tend to focus on what we do not have rather than that which we possess. Giving then becomes more about what we can give up or lack rather than out of the abundance of God’s blessings. Christian stewardship and giving as Paul presents it should be based on and motivated by two all-important principles. There are the principle and Christian perspective that the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it”.

When you get right down to it, we really own nothing. We are simply caretakers or stewards of the things we enjoy for a short time. After our few brief years on the earth, the things we have enjoyed will be left to be cared for by others.

Then there is the principle that is based on the self-giving of Christ. Jesus gave up everything for those He loved. In response to that self-giving and great love, we give and we share with the less fortunate. Sacrificial giving shows the genuineness of our love for Christ.

To share and share alike is the only right and equitable thing to do. I know many Christians have an issue with this as it sounds like socialism. Paul speaks of a “fair balance” between those who have abundance and those who are in need. He contends that it is only fair that those who have so much would share with those who have so little.

Leo Tolstoy, voiced some powerful words when he said, “My piece of bread only belongs to me when I know that everyone else has a share and that no one starves while I eat.” It is sad to say, but it appears that the gap between the rich and the poor is getting wider and wider, as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Such a trend is in total opposition to biblical principles and is in total contradiction to the way of biblical justice – the way it ought to be.

How much we are willing to share is something with which each of us must struggle and come to terms with. Along with the Corinthian Christians, we, too, are called upon to share what is fair out of the abundance that we have received. As a pastor, it has been my observation that congregations, like the congregation at Corinth, excel in many areas: faith, knowledge, music, fellowship, commitment to social justice, and special-drive giving. I have seen that in how we supported a water well project many years ago. Although we are a small group, a significant amount was raised.

When it comes to giving, we tend to focus on what we have and then decide what we can give after taking care of all of our other “commitments.” Commentator J. Paul Sampley writes of this passage in Corinthians: “If we wait to share until we find ourselves with surplus, we may never share because we have been subtly acculturated to think we never have enough . . . we are sometimes blind as to how much we really have to share.”

I wonder whether, if Paul were writing to our church today, he would say, “Now as you excel in everything – in faith, in knowledge and wisdom, in teaching, in music, in fellowship, in a commitment to justice – so I want you to excel in generous giving also.”

One of the most well-known stories from the Bible on giving comes from Mark 12. In verses 41-44 we read, “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

This reminds me of a story I read about a church group from America that travelled to China. On Sunday, different members of the group fanned out and visited different churches in the city they were visiting. Mrs. Chang, an older Chinese woman who was touring with the group, chose to visit a poor church composed of farmers. Those present that Sunday wanted to hear a word from their sister from the States. So Mrs. Chang brought greetings from her church in Los Angeles and told how they were currently building a large new addition to keep up with the growth. Then after a word of blessing, Mrs. Chang took her seat.

At the close of the worship service, Mrs. Chang was called back to the front of the church. The pastor said that her words had thrilled their hearts. They wanted her to have the morning offering to help with the new building in Los Angeles – about $140. With overflowing joy and generosity, the Chinese Christians gave beyond their ability to give.

One might say that the American church did not need the money; the Chinese church made up of poor farmers needed it much worse. But the Chinese Christians wanted to give, to share, with others in the world. That is the true spirit of Christian giving – an eagerness to give, and giving generously. God calls on us who have received so much to do no less. The world needs it, we are all in this thing together, and it is the right thing to do – to share and share alike.

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